Suburban Permaculture 20 miles from Washington DC

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Suburban Hugelkultur Garden Integrated with Aquaponics

Suburban Hugelkultur Garden Integrated with Aquaponics

My backyard Hugelkultur garden:  What if I told you, that you can make a garden that never needs to be watered for 20 years?  Well this is it.  You bury logs underneath your garden and the wood acts like a sponge and soaks up the water when it rains and stays moist until the next rain.  This slowly breaks down over 20 years and then you have some amazing soil.  The first year is not supposed to be so great as the wood (carbon) steals nitrogen (plant food) from the plants in an effort to compost itself.  I had a great first season but I cheated with Aquaponics water (check out my backyard aquaponics).  When it rains, my nearby Aquaponics system overflows into a ditch which leads to my Hugelkultur. read more

Hot Composting

Hot Composting

My Pallet Composting System

The Winter Quail Condo

The Winter Quail Condo

Some birds fly south for the winter, my quail take a short trip to the garage and spend winter in the Quail Condo.  It’s a 4-tier setup with each level having water, food, dust bath, free choice oyster shell. This was all custom built by me and my laughable carpentry skills!  The garage is unheated but it stays above freezing.

The design starts with the cement mixing tubs which are cheap and easy to get at any big box store.  I fill the tubs with wood shavings and they catch the quail droppings and lock up any smell. About every 2 weeks I slide the tub out, dump in the compost, refill with some wood shavings, so easy!   There are 6 quail (5 females, 1 male) on each level. read more

Backyard Aquaponics

Backyard Aquaponics

This is my backyard Aquaponics setup.   Aquaponics is a growing method in which fish and plants are used to create a natural symbiotic relationship.  The fish create natural fertilizer and the plants uptake those nutrients while at the same time, the plants root’s filter and return fresh water back to the fish like a mini-ecosystem. Pesticides (even organic pesticides) can not be used because they would kill the fish. I wouldn’t put poison on my food anyway. read more

Small Plot Intensive Gardening

Small Plot Intensive Gardening

I turned the lawn in my side yard into productive abundance!   First I removed all the grass by hand with a shovel (that was no joke).  The ground underneath was all crazy think clay with no top soil and no biological life.  I brought in some compost and formed the rows and woodchip walking paths.  I broadforked (14 inch meadow creature – https://meadowcreature.com/broadforks) the rows but the ground was so compacted that I could barely scratch the surface (Frustrating). I decided to plant anyway and put down about 2-3 x 5 gal buckets of compost for each row (20 feet long by 3 feet wide). The walking paths are anywhere from 6 inches to 18 inches wide (the idea being that you can straddle the garden rows without having to step in the beds and everything is so tight that you can actually plant more than if you had a tractor doing this). I had an incredible first season growing a ton of food on some really crappy soil. read more

Raising Backyard Quail In The Suburbs

Raising Backyard Quail In The Suburbs

Why Quail?  I wanted fresh eggs!  Quail better than chickens? Absolutely!  I’m slightly biased, but here’s why:

They are quiet, really quiet – I live in the suburbs and can’t be upsetting neighbors

They start producing eggs in just 6 weeks vice 6 months for chickens

The eggs are smaller, about 4 Quail eggs for each chicken egg but quail egg packs more nutrition than chicken eggs (a topic of hot debate!)

They are super docile and will not peck or spur you read more

Season extension: How to make your own pipe bender (1/2 inch EMT).

So its getting cold outside but you still want to garden.  Use low tunnels to extend your season and grow cold hearty crops all winter. Ever  had a winter carrot or kale?  They are amazing!  The cold weather actually concentrates the sugars.  Plus come spring, whatever stopped growing will all of a sudden explode with life giving you an awesome quick crop when nobody has anything.

You’ve seen these hoops but it looks complicated and you need special tools to bend them otherwise they kink up if you try to do it by hand.  No worries, here is how you can make your own pipe bender and get whatever custom shape/size you want in about a minute of bending (me bending a 1/2 inch EMT pipe). read more

Aquaponics – Winter System

I live in Northern Virginia, so when it starts to freeze outside, I move my fish to my winter garage aquaponics system.  I can do 3 rafts which is about 90 lettuce plants. I don’t heat the garage and it stays above freezing because some heat escapes from my house.

Quail Tractor

My Backyard Quail Tractor